The current UK government is planning several ways to improve the country’s border security once the country leaves the European Union.
The British Conservative Party have unveiled their plans for border security after Brexit. After officially leaving the EU on January 31st, 2020, the country is now in a transition period until the end of the year, after which UK border security will likely change in the following ways.
A new UK points-based immigration system
Controlling immigration was a major point of focus of the Leave campaign during the run-up to the 2016 Brexit referendum. As one of the campaign’s biggest proponents, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken about introducing a points-based system similar to that of Australia.
This system reviews prospective immigrants and awards points to the applicants based on various traits considered desirable. Things that are taken into consideration include:
- Experience working in a skilled sector
- Level of English fluency
The current UK system is similar for immigrants from countries outside the EU, awarding points for criteria such as speaking the English language, having the sponsorship of a UK-based company, and having a salary over a certain threshold.
The number of work visas granted is capped at around 21,000 per year.
The current UK system does not judge individuals on their age or qualifications, whereas an Australian-style system would.
Australia also has a decentralised approach, in which different states may have different requirements to try and attract immigrants with a specific skill set.
It is currently unknown which aspects of an Australian-style system will be adopted. It is also not known what the government’s policy will be regarding international students from EU countries or family members of people already residing in the UK.
Can I travel to the UK with an ID card after Brexit?
While part of the EU, the United Kingdom abides by its free travel policy. Citizens of EU countries can travel to the UK using either a passport or an ID card. The British government plans to change this after Brexit.
European ID cards will no longer be accepted at the UK border. After Brexit, all EU citizens will have to present a valid passport to enter the UK.
Automated systems and biometric passports
The UK government has claimed it plans to update and modernise border control checks. Automated entrance and exit checks will allow authorities to count the numbers of people coming into and leaving the country.
Travellers may be required to carry biometric passports. These would keep track of who is entering the country and identify those who have breached the terms of their visa. In theory, this should also restrict illegal immigration and make it more difficult for those with criminal convictions to cross the UK border.
Opponents of these plans have pointed out that the UK would no longer have access to EU crime databases and that these updates could amount to nothing more than extra bureaucracy and red tape.
UK Visa Waiver for EU citizens
Perhaps the biggest change to British border security after Brexit will be the introduction of a UK Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW) for EU citizens. While European Union nationals will no longer be able to simply enter the UK with just a passport or an ID card, the EVW enables easy access to the country compared to having to apply for a visa.
Applying for a UK EVW is a simple and straightforward process and can be done online, without the need to visit an embassy and wait in line to apply for a visa.
There is already a UK EVW available for nationals of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. It is expected that this will become available for citizens of all EU countries and additionally for nationals of Commonwealth countries.
UK goods checks from EU countries
The UK government plans to make more checks on goods imported from the European Union by using “pre-arrival data”. Details on how this would be implemented are to be finalised during future talks with the EU and other countries.
Currently, around 53% of imports to the UK come from the EU. Being part of the single market and customs union, they do not require tracking or checks. After Brexit, the UK will no longer be part of either of these, making goods checks necessary.
These measures are designed to crack down on smuggling and could prevent £5bn in revenue from being lost.
The situation regarding checks between Britain, Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland is unclear, with conflicting statements by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Office documents.
It is likely that negotiations are set to continue up to the end of 2020 and it is possible that further changes to UK border security will be announced before that time.